Umbria wine tour

Saints alive! Tour Assisi, Orvieto & the wine zones of Umbria

  • Visit Assisi & the stomping ground of St. Francis of Assisi

  • See the Gothic cathedral of Orvieto

  • View Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco cycle of St. Francesco in Montefalco

  • Pick up some majolica pottery in Deruta

  • Roam the medieval streets of Cortona

  • Private sit-down tastings at Umbria's top wineries

ITINERARY

DAY 1 – ITALIAN SYRAH IN CORTONA

Get ready to taste the best food and wine of Umbria! But first, we explore something even more off the beaten track: Tuscan syrah in nearby Cortona. We head to the master: Tenimenti Luigi d’Alessandro. In the 1980s, the owner of this 300-year-old farm spearheaded groundbreaking research (with professor Attilio Scienza) on syrah in the dry Cortona environment, which kicked off a surge of winery investments in the area. You’ll see why folks are enthusiastic when you taste their three syrahs (and two viogniers), made in consultation with a Rhone and Barolo winemaker: Christine Verney of Domaine Georges Vernay and Luca Corrado of Vietti.

Next, we begin the Umbria part of this wine tour at Castello di Magione, an impressive castle on Lake Trasimeno that once belonged to the Knights Templar. In its restored cellar, wine is again being made, ranging from fresh white grechetto to powerful cabernet to nectar-like vin santo. The day concludes in Spello, our base for the next few days. Located on the Appian Way, a Roman thoroughfare, the town holds many traces of its Roman past, including the town gate as well as Mediaval frescos in its churches. 

Dinner in town introduces the earthy cuisine of Umbria, which includes a whole alphabet of beans, sausage, and red-wine loving meats like duck and roast pork.   
D • Hotel La Bastiglia, Spello

DAY 2 – TOUR ASSISI & SPELLO

Assisi was the birthplace of St. Francis (from whom the current Pope takes his name), friend to all creatures great and small. We’ll spend the morning in this magnificent city, full of beautiful churches, scenic overlooks, and the Basilica of St. Francis, which holds artwork by Giotto and other masters.

In the afternoon we pay a visit to the boutique winery Fongoli, a multigenerational biodynamic farm and winery—our introduction to Montefalco wine and the great Sagrantino. If there’s time and interest, we can also stop at the tasting room of Castelbuono, owned by the Lunelli family (of Ferrari sparkler fame) and designed by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. Dinner is in town. 
B, D • Hotel La Bastiglia, Spello

DAY 3 – MONTEFALCO SAGRANTINO, UMBRIA’S JEWEL IN THE CROWN

Today is entirely dedicated to Montefalco, both the town and the wine that takes its name. We start with the winery that took Sagrantino off the endangered-species list and pushed it into the modern age: Marco Caprai. We’ll see some of the experimental vineyards that enabled an understanding of the grape and created a bank of genetic material. We’ll learn about Caprai’s latest research in green winery practices. And we’ll taste some sensational wines! 

Then we visit the town, a walled city overlooking the Appian Way. The highlight here is the Church of San Francescoand its three-story fresco cycle depicting the life of the saint—the most famous work by Renaissance artist Benozzo Gozzoli. (We’ll be sure to point out Gozzoli’s little homage to Sagrantino, and his insertion of Montefalco and its views into the background of St. Francis Talks to the Birds.)

Our second winery is Antonelli, one of Montefalco’s oldest wineries. Once belonging to the Bishop of Spoleto, thisestate dates back to the 1881. Itcarries the banner forward with elegant, drinkable renditions of Montefalco Sagrantino, a notoriously tannic wine (but high in health-boosting resveratrol!).

Dinner is on your own in Spello. B • Hotel La Bastiglia, Spello

DAY 4 – LUNGAROTTI, ORVIETO & DERUTA POTTERY

The father of Umbria wine is said to be Giorgio Lungarotti, who first put it on the map in the 1960s. His estate is now run by his two daughters, and it’s a major presence in the town of Torgiano, with a winery (the largest in Umbria), a luxury hotel and restaurant, and two museums dedicated to olive oil and to the cultural history of wine. We’ll have a sit-down tasting of their wines, which range from a rare vermentino blend to their famous Rubesco, a sangiovese/canaiolo blend that earned the region its DOC status.

For a change in pace, we visit Deruta, a town known for its ceramics, particularly its majolica, a style dating from the Renaissance. Here we’ll visit the town’s most historic pottery factory, where you’ll be able to admire the many fabulous creations and maybe take home a keepsake.

We end the day in Orvieto, our base for the second part of this tour. We’ll arrive in time for a stroll in town with your guides, who will take you to the Orvieto Cathedral, founded by a Pope in 1290 to celebrate the new miracle of Corpus Christi. We’ll spotlight its most famous fresco, The Last Judgment by Angelo Signorelli. If there’s time, we’ll also visit the subterranean Etruscan ruins. Dinner is in town. 
B, D • Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini in Orvieto

DAY 5 – A VISIT TO ANTINORI IN UMBRIA: CASTELLO DELLA SALA

Since the 1940s, the Antinori family has owned Castello della Sala, a medieval castle with huge vineyard holdings. Under the magic touch of Tuscany’s preeminent winemaking dynasty, this estate has been producing a glorious wine that has been awarded the coveted Tre Bicchieri (3 Glasses) by Gambero Rosso for nearly 20 years straight: Cervaro della Sala, an oak-aged chardonnay/grechetto blend. If you’re an ABC cardholder (Anything But Chardonnay), you’ll immediately tear up your card upon tasting this magic potion! You’ll also want to try Antinori’s Orvieto Classico—normally a forgettable quaffer, but here a well-made, pleasing wine.

More outstanding Orvieto Classico awaits us at La Carraia, a joint venture of famed enologist Riccardo Cottarella and local winemaker/restaurateur Odoardo Gialletti. Afterwards, there will be free time in Orvieto before we wrap up with our farewell dinner. 
B, D • Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini

DAY 6 – BUON VIAGGIO! 

Morning shuttle to the Orvieto train station, where there are many trains to Rome and Florence. B


TRIP NOTES

Airport
Florence (continental) or Rome (intercontinental nonstop)

Pre-tour
Plan to land in Italy a day before the tour begins; that’s necessary to be at our starting point on time. We strongly suggest spending the preceding night in Cortona. Cortona has two train stations: Camucia and Terontola. Either is fine, but if you’re arriving from Florence, Camucia is recommended because a) it’s closer to Florence, and b) it has a bus every 30 minutes that takes you from the train station to the center of town, whereas Terontola's is every hour. Alternately, you can ask your hotel to arrange a car service to pick you up upon arrival.  If you’re arriving from Rome, there are more options to Terontola, mostly express trains.

Italian train schedule
Here's the English-language version of TrenItalia. Be aware that the schedule is posted only several months in advance, so if you're looking for long-range dates, try something sooner, just to get an idea of departure frequency and trip length.

Meeting point
Our meeting point will at a designated piazza in Cortona. (We'll provide precise details in your information packet.)

Departure day
On our final day, we’ll shuttle you to the train station of Orvieto. From here, there are many trains to Florence and Rome. During the tour, we can help buy your return train tickets.

Trip extensions
Rome or Florence are obvious places to spend a few extra days. But if you’d rather explore more of Umbria, we’d suggest you rent a car in Orvieto after our tour. From here, you could do an itinerary that includes TodiSpoletoCasciaNorcia, and Gubbio—all quaint medieval villages, full of history and worth exploring.

Travel insurance
This is recommended to protect you from needless loss caused by last-minute cancellations, lost luggage, and more. Three sources are Travelex Insurance, (800) 228-9792; CSA Travel Protection, (800) 348-9505; and Travel Guard, (800) 826-1300.

Weather
When packing, check www.weather.com. Go to “Assisi, Italy” get a general idea of temperatures and forecast.

For cancellation policy & more, see our General Information page.

2019 dates
September 16–21
$3195
Single supplement: $350

Meet
Cortona

Depart
Orvieto train station

What's included
- 5 nights accommodations (double room) in 3- and 4-star hotels, with breakfast buffet
- 4 gourmet dinners (three courses with wine)
- All wine tastings mentioned
- Admission to Church of San Francesco, Orvieto’s Duomo & Etruscan tombs, Lungarotti wine museum

What's not included
- Air travel
- 1 dinner on your own & all lunches
- After-dinner drinks, or special wines at tastings that are not part of what is provided to the group
- Items of a personal nature
- Anything not specified as included

You succeeded in bringing the food, wine & culture of Umbria together into a superb, wonderful experience
— Ilene Rauzi, Columbia, MO
Really enjoyed the small group size (7). Traveling with Claudio was pure pleasure. His choice of wines at dinner was spot on.
— Ed Sachteren, Manhattan Beach, CA